J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Lovesick: A Bad Case of Heartburn

Some guys get tongue-tied around the object of their affections. Unfortunately, Charlie Darby is not one of them. If he were, things would be much more pleasant for him, as well as us, the unsuspecting audience. Instead, he will be caught up in one painful-to-watch flight of jealousy lunacy after another in Luke Matheny’s Lovesick (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

According his friend Jason’s voiceovers, Darby is a great guy and a swell boss. He just thought the often-dumped elementary school principal was profoundly unlucky in love, until he witnesses our story first-hand. Despite swearing off romance, Darby meets Molly Kingston at a wedding and quickly falls for her. It is hard to blame him. She is a cute dance instructor who sings in an eighties cover band and regularly takes her grandmother on lovely vacations. If she has any faults, Dean Young’s screenplay never shows them.

On the other hand, whenever Darby is interested in a woman, his neurotic imagination concocts bizarre scenarios that fuel his manic jealousy, but have no basis in reality. Time and again, Darby sabotages his own relationships, by acting like an insane jerkweed. For some reason, Kingston is more tolerant of his acting out, but it is only a matter of time before he pushes her away for good.

Presumably, Lovesick was envisioned as a throwback to the sort of screwball rom-com farces Blake Edwards had such a touch with, but it falls far short. Frankly, watching Darby humiliate himself over and over just gets to be a sour viewing experience. Of course, Matt LeBlanc is a dubious stand-in for Dudley Moore.

Arguably, the predominance of TV actors might subconsciously make Lovesick feel even smaller in stature. LeBlanc (Friends, Joey, Episodes) mugs shamelessly and takes plenty of unnecessary pratfalls, but you can’t say he isn’t trying. Ali Larter (Heroes, Legends) somehow maintains her dignity as Kingston, but it is impossible to believe her and LeBlanc’s Darby are together. Chevy Chase (Community, SNL, The Chevy Chase Show for twenty-five awkward nights) also turns up from time to time as Darby’s anti-social porn-obsessed neighbor, so he’s likely just playing himself. Adam Rodriguez (C.S.I. Miami) is perfectly respectable as Jason, but the character is probably even described as a thankless role in the script. Somewhat frustratingly, Kristen Johnston (3rd Rock from the Sun) gets some of the biggest laughs but has the briefest screen time as the child psychiatrist assigned to Darby’s school.

Matheny seems like a nice guy and his Oscar winning short film God of Love is absolutely terrific. Since he neither wrote Lovesick nor appears in a featured role, we can hopefully conclude this was a work-for-hire gig he can quickly move on from. For what it is worth, he keeps the film moving along at a good pace, despite the sticky cloyingness of the material.

There are worse crimes against cinema than Lovesick, but it still just doesn’t work. A disappointment for the fans of all involved, it opens tomorrow (2/6) in New York at the Quad Cinema.

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